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Montana elk confirmed with CWD
Recalling cattle feed was not possible, BSE probe told
BSE feed sold to third world countries for 9 years
Beef ban chronology
EU blasts France over sewage in animal feed
Half of US cattle harbor E. coli 0157:H7
France wants pre-clinical testing; Germany to reopen beef safety talks
Swiss BSE cases born after feed ban
USDA patents TSE diagnostic test
Setback for beef hopes as EU experts fail to agree

Recalling cattle feed was not possible, BSE probe told

Wed, Nov 10, 1999 By Tim Moynihan, PA News
The logistics of introducing a recall of potentially contaminated cattle feed rather than banning its future sale would have been "horrendous", former Government chief veterinary officer Keith Meldrum told the BSE inquiry today.

"I don't think it was a runner," he said.

Mr Meldrum had just become chief veterinary officer when the BSE Order was passed on June 14, 1988, as concerns about the spread of the disease in cattle grew. The measure prohibited the sale of certain material for feeding to ruminants, effective from July 18.

Asked whether a feed recall scheme should have been considered, he said: "Quite frankly, the logistics even of a withdrawal scheme for produce on farm after July 18 would have been horrendous, simply and solely because of the very high number of farms that we have in the UK, with farm livestock and cattle in particular." He added: "If we had got involved with an extensive recall system, covering up to 100,000 farms, it would have been much longer than the period in which we thought residual stocks on farms would be used up. I don't think it was a runner."

Asked about the period of time before the measure became effective, he said: "We had to devise a reasonable and proportionate response to the disease. The industry wanted two to three months." It would not have been sensible to introduce a policy with which the dustry did not comply, he said. And he stressed: "We, in the state veterinary service, saw the importance of a ruminant protein ban."

Mr Meldrum, chief veterinary officer from 1988 to 1997, agreed that his expectations in June 1988 about the probable level of compliance with the ban had turned out to be over optimistic. "That is absolutely true, because at least one compounder if not more had not followed the spirit of the ruminant protein ban," he said. "But you have seen evidence from three major companies that they complied with the spirit of the ban, and they would have produced a large proportion of the supplies."

The inquiry began in October last year in an attempt to find out whether the 29 people who died from CJD after May 1995 did so because they ate infected beef. Mr Meldrum stressed that he had not been responsible for the health of the nation - that was the responsibility of the Chief Medical Officer and the Department of Health. "Time and time again I was asked to comment in public on matters that were properly the responsibility of the Chief Medical Officer," he said.

He offered the view that the ban on certain specified bovine offals for human consumption introduced in November 1989 was "inspirational" - "because if it hadn't been done in the way it was done, there would have been a significantly increased risk to the consumer over a period of time." The BSE Inquiry is due to report back to the Government early next year.

BSE meal exports continued for 9 years

Thu, Nov 4, 1999 By Eileen Murphy, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
Exports of British meat and bonemeal (MBM) for use in cattle feed continued to on-European Union countries for nine years after links between BSE and this foodstuff were uncovered, a public inquiry said today.

The inquiry into the outbreak of mad cow disease and the actions of the government ministers and scientists to contain its spread today published a draft factual account (DFA) of the evidence so far received on the subject of MBM exports.

In the DFA Keith Meldrum, the Government's chief veterinary officer at the height of the crisis in the late 80s and 90s, told colleagues in 1989 that the Government "do not consider it morally indefensible to export MBM to other countries since it may be used for feeding to pigs and poultry as in this country". [ie, Britain was taking on the same health risks as the 9 importing countries -- webmaster]

At this time the Government had been aware of a likely link between feeding MBM recovered from slaughtered sheep to cattle and the arrival of BSE in Britain for almost a year after initial studies in 1987 revealed a possible link. The British Government had also implemented its own domestic ban on the practice in August 1988.

But exports to Third World countries and others outside the 15 European Union member states continued.

In 1989 Mr Meldrum remained clear that it was not for the British Government to take the issue of exports into its own hands. He said: "It is our view that the importing country must determine its own import conditions and to that end we have ensured that all countries of the rld have been informed of our problems."

Mr Meldrum and his colleagues at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food told the Inquiry team they had utilised the Office Internationale des Epizooties (OIE) - the animal health equivalent of the World Health Organisation - to spread the word about BSE.

But in its final report to 150 member countries in 1998 the OIE made no reference to any link between MBM and the incidence of BSE.

Government scientists had also published scientific papers through veterinary and scientific journals and Mr Meldrum had addressed the OIE himself. Sir Donald Thompson, parliamentary under secretary at the Ministry of iculture from 1986 to 1989, added in his evidence to the Inquiry: "I am convinced in my own mind that what we were doing on BSE was internationally known and understood."

However, it was not until June 1994 that the feeding of protein derived from other mammals to cattle was banned throughout the EU while a worldwide ban on the export of MBM did not come into force until 27 March, 1996. The BSE Inquiry is due to report back to the Government early next year.

Beef ban chronology

Wed, Nov 10, 1999 By John Deane and Peter Walker, PA News
France was expected to give its formal response to the expert all-clear for British beef today amid renewed anger at the Paris government's stance in the food dispute. The crisis, which has united British farmers, consumers and politicians in anger, has now dragged on for nearly four months:

:: July 14 -- After more than three years of a trade blockade following the BSE crisis, the European Commission announces worldwide exports of British beef can begin again on August 1.

:: August 1 -- Farmers celebrate the official end of the export ban. The first consignment of animals due for export are prepared for slaughter as a marketing drive begins -- centred on France.

:: August 2 -- It becomes clear that French consumers are still to be convinced -- two leading French supermarket chains say they will continue to stock only local beef, claiming customers do not want the British meat.

:: August 3 -- France and Germany cause anger among British farmers by announcing they will not lift their ban on British beef immediately. Both say there are further questions over safety.

:: August 4 -- The Government formally voices its concerns to the French and German authorities as the possibility of a legal battle looms for the first time.

:: October 1 -- After a lull in hostilities, Anglo-French relations explode as the newly-established French Food Safety Agency -- in its first judgment -- recommends that the ban stays in place for safety reasons. Agriculture minister Nick Brown angrily condemns the action as contrary to EU law, and is swiftly backed by European consumer protection Commissioner David Byrne.

:: October 4 -- Mr Brown throws down the gauntlet to the French by declaring a personal boycott of their products.

:: October 8 -- Germany announces it will delay any ruling on British beef imports until the French situation is resolved.

:: October 22 -- As a newspaper-led anti-French produce campaign gathers speed, supermarket chain Somerfield announces it will take French products off its shelves, joining Budgens in a boycott.

:: October 25 -- The Government signals it might take action to ban French meat after an EU report discloses French farmers had been feeding their livestock with human and animal sewage.

:: October 26 -- As gendarmes look on, French farmers stage a mini-blockade of British trucks at the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais. Tony Blair calls his French counterpart, Lionel Jospin, to re-state the British case.

:: October 27 -- The beef war reaches the House of Commons as Conservative leader William Hague demands a reciprocal ban on French goods and condemns the Government as "spineless".

:: October 28 -- Hopes of a clear-cut ruling on the issue appear to receive a setback after a meeting on the EU's Scientific Steering Committee breaks up, apparently "nowhere near" a consensus.

:: October 29 -- Despite the fears, just before 5pm British time the committee issues its unanimous verdict -- that there is no justification for the French ban.

:: October 31 -- As the French and German governments drag their feet, a plan is announced for Britain, France and the EU to hold a crisis meeting two days later to sort out the impasse.

:: November 1 -- Britain faces the threat of a second front in the European beef war after German state governments say they will defy their own national leaders and refuse to lift the ban on British beef.

:: November 2 -- After three hours of talks, Britain agrees to reopen five key elements of beef safety measures, pushing the eventual date for the end of the ban still further into the future.

:: November 3 -- Germany signals it wants to reopen talks about the safety of British beef, following Mr Brown's surprise decision to hold fresh discussions with the French over the lifting of their ban. Meanwhile European food safety commissioner David Byrne sets a two-week deadline for Paris to resolve its difficulties over UK beef or face legal action.

:: November 5 -- Agriculture officials from Paris and London meet in Brussels at the request of France to "clarify" the UK's arrangements for safeguarding against mad cow disease. After nearly seven hours of discussions, the delegations depart to report back to their capitals.

:: November 6 -- Tony Blair and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin discuss the beef crisis while watching the Rugby World Cup final in Cardiff. "They both remain confident that we will be able to resolve this situation in the near future," Downing Street says later.

:: November 8 -- In a French TV interview, Mr Blair makes a direct appeal to the French people to accept an end to their Government's import ban on British beef.

:: November 9 -- Giving evidence to a Commons select committee, Mr Brown promises: "No concessions have been made to the French and no concessions will ever be made."

:: November 10 -- Mr Brown warns France not to try to impose new conditions on the import of British beef. His warning comes after a spokesman for the Paris government declares there is no chance of France lifting its ban on British beef as the conditions it laid down "in the name of prevention and health" have not been met.

EU blasts France over sewage in animal f

Fri, Oct 22, 199 By Andrew Osbor
The European Commission warned the French government on Friday to improve controls in rendering plants after its inspectors found that some have been passing on sewage sludge to animal feed makers for years.

Dutch, Belgian and German rendering plants were also under suspicion and the Commission might organise inspection visits to those countries too. This was "an unacceptable practice that the Commission would not tolerate," spokeswoman Thea Emmerling told a news briefing.

The French authorities have 15 days to come up with a plan to remedy the situation at the rendering plants, which boil bones and other waste from slaughtered animals which is then sold on to animal feed makers. Enhanced controls must be put in place within two months, supervision stepped up and the results of a risk analysis of chemicals present in sludge sent to the Commission within a month, she added.

"The competent authorities should improve the controls to ensure that prohibited substances are not used as ingredients in the animal feeding stuff production. Suppliers of the animal waste processing industry and the question of faecal contents should be particularly targeted," a Commission report published on Friday recommended. The Commission decided to investigate in August following media reports in France which suggested feed had been tainted with dangerous pesticides, heavy metals and human waste.

France argues that heat-treating the waste makes the resulting matter safe and it can no longer be considered sewage sludge, EU officials say. The Commission strongly disagrees. It was not yet clear whether or how the French plants had separated animal waste from human waste. The waste was then sold as an ingredient for animal feed, the report, drawn up following an EU inspection visit in August, said.

Emmerling said the animal waste processing plants implicated had partially cleaned up their act but warned that there was still a potential problem concerning the recycling of material collected before waste water was biologically treated.

Emmerling said the EU executive was considering changing EU law to make it clear that the use of sewage sludge in animal feed, regardless of its origin, was outlawed. The Commission has also sent questionnaires to all EU countries to find out exactly what they are putting in feed.

French have fed sewage to livestock for years

Times of London October 23 1999 By Martin Fletcher, Valerie Elliott and Philip Webster
THE food war between Britain and France escalated last night with a disclosure that French farmers had fed livestock with sewage sludge including animal parts and human excrement for years. A report from the European Commission denounced the French conduct as unacceptable, and said that the authorities had failed to take any action against those responsible or to recover the potentially contaminated feedstuffs. It gave Paris just 15 days to produce an "action plan" for putting its house in order.

Britain was resisting calls for a ban on all French meat products even though industry and opposition spokesmen demanded firmer action and their immediate withdrawal from supermarkets. British producers, furious at the apparent hypocrisy of the continuing French ban on British beef, threatened to intensify the row by demanding retaliation.

The effects on public health of human and animal waste entering the food chain could be enormous, causing serious food poisoning and increased resistance to antibiotics. Most of the animal feed is used for French pig and chicken production. According to latest trade figures, Britain imports 95,000 tonnes of chickens from France and many are sold fresh in supermarkets as well as being used for ready-made foods and pies. Britain also imports 24,700 tonnes of pork, but beef and lamb imports are small. They would also be used in imported pates, pies and ready-made meals.

Last night a number of supermarket chains made urgent checks with the Ministry of Agriculture on whether French meat and poultry products were safe to leave on shelves. The Government told the French that it would be in their interests to lift the beef ban swiftly.

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, told his French counterpart that he would "categorically" reject calls for a unilateral ban on French agricultural produce because "we play by the rules and we would hope that all our European partners would do the same". His unspoken message was clearly that a decision to lift the beef ban was required if France was to prevent a massive rejection of its produce in Britain. Tim Yeo, the Conservative agriculture spokesman, called on the Government to ban French meat and animal products. He condemned the "utter hypocrisy of the French Government".

European Commission officials found that plants producing animal feed included sewage sludge in the ingredients and added that it was "not fully clear" if or how the French authorities separated human waste beforehand. The report was the result of an "urgent mission" made by suspicious commission inspectors to France this summer.

It reveals how animal feed plants have been recycling almost everything they can salvage from slaughterhouses, right down to the run-off that collects in septic tanks. That can include human and animal excrement, waste water used for cleaning and disinfecting lorries, motor oil and chemicals. At one point, French authorities were obliged to assure the inspectors that sludge from municipal sewage plants was never used.

"Certain plants in the French rendering industry have used for years prohibited substances such as sludge from the biological treatment of the wastewater or water >from septic tanks," the report says. Most waste was heat-treated to kill bacteria, but that process was unable to remove chemicals and heavy metals.

The report says that "no further action was taken by the competent authorities against the plants, even where companies had recycled clearly prohibited material". France claims that the processing plants have all now stopped recycling sewage sludge, but Paris is still arguing about how "sludge" should be defined.

Derek Armstrong, a veterinary scientist for the Meat and Livestock Commission, said that French products should be identified to check whether they came from plants mentioned in the report.

Half of US cattle harbor E. coli 0157:H7

Nov. 10, 1999 - ABC News
A deadly strain of E. coli bacteria is far more common in U.S. cattle than previously thought, and may be found in half the animals that are made into ground beef, steaks and other cuts, a senior U.S. Agriculture Department official said today.

The surprisingly high rate of E. coli 0157:H7, detected by more sensitive testing techniques used since September, has prompted the USDA to take the unusual step of re-evaluating how it regulates the foodborne disease. The bacteria can cause kidney failure and death among children or the elderly who eat contaminated ground beef. But among cattle, E. coli 0157:H7 lives harmlessly in the digestive tract. The bug migrates when animals are slaughtered and skinned, moving from internal organs and hides to flesh.

Tom Billy, administrator of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said in an interview that agency scientists were still analyzing data but decided to alert the industry about the unexpected preliminary results.

USDA regulations to protect consumers from E. coli 0157:H7 contamination were based on 1994 data showing the bug occurred in one of every 2,000 or so carcasses at the slaughter plant.

"The prevalence could be much more common and as high as one in every two carcasses," Billy said. "If that's true, it changes significantly the options available to us to achieve the zero tolerance."

USDA regulations allow "zero tolerance" of E. coli 0157:H7. If tests detect the pathogen in raw ground beef, that batch is considered adulterated and is usually destroyed. Companies can process the meat at high temperatures to kill the bacteria, then use it in cooked foods such as canned chili.

The USDA monitors E. coli 0157:H7 in ground beef by taking 8,000 samples annually at slaughter plants and grocery stores. The USDA is drafting some options that may include changes in testing procedures, and will publish them next month. A public hearing will be held in mid-January, Billy said.

The new data also raises the issue of whether farmers and ranchers need to do more to prevent E. coli in their herds. The bacteria is found more often on the hides of feedlot cattle, the USDA said. Feedlot cattle are typically fattened in a confined area just before going to slaughter. The animals spread E. coli 0157:H7 by defecating and drooling in shared water troughs.

The American Meat Institute, an industry trade group, has funded research to measure how much E. coli is left on an animal hide after slaughter. The researchers are also trying to determine whether various chemical dips, steam vacuuming or other treatments of hides are best to kill the bacteria.

With E. coli more common in raw meat, processors are likely to embrace irradiation technology that can kill the bacteria. The USDA's long-delayed regulations for irradiation use in plants will be issued by the end of December, Billy said.

A recent outbreak of the bug at a New York fair killed an elderly man and a three-year-old girl, and sickened more than 600 others. Investigators have theorized a water well may have been contaminated by nearby dairy cow barns. Nationwide, an estimated 52 Americans die annually from from E. coli 0157:H7 and 60,000 others fall ill from the bug.

France wants pre-clinical testing; Germany to reopen beef safety talks

Wed, Nov 3, 1999  By Gavin Cordon and Geoff Meade, PA News
Germany tonight signalled it wanted to reopen talks about the safety of British beef after Agriculture Minister Nick Brown's surprise decision to hold fresh discussions with the French over the lifting of their ban. The German move came as European food safety commissioner David Byrne set a two-week deadline for Paris to resolve its difficulties over UK beef or face legal action.

The comment by German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke will alarm British farmers who fear Mr Brown's agreement with France could reopen an issue they thought was settled after Friday's unanimous ruling by EU scientists giving UK beef the all-clear.

Germany, like France, has yet to lift its beef ban although ministers have said that they are working to do so by the end of the year. However, the federal government in Berlin has no power to enforce any decision on the 16 regional governments - seven of whom have said they will not end their bans.

Mr Funke told German radio today: "There are points that need to be clarified with Britain, technical details about being sure of where the beef comes from." He added: "This isn't about a trade war, this is about calming consumer fears." Meanwhile, Mr Byrne said that he expected the French government to respond by Thursday of next week following this Friday's meeting of British and French officials to discuss the "technical implementation" of lifting the ban.

If there was still no clear announcement that France was ending the embargo, Mr Byrne said he would deliver his final conclusions when the Commission meets in Strasbourg on November 16. The timetable was seen as delivering the first real deadline to Paris for the launch of legal proceedings if the dispute is still dragging on by then. "I hope within the next 10 days or so we will have a final resolution of this problem," Mr Byrne told the European Parliament in Brussels. "I expect a response from the French certainly no later than Thursday next week, so I can update my Commission colleagues on Wednesday (November 10) and present my final conclusions on Tuesday (November 16) in Strasbourg."

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said that while the ban would be lifted "as soon as possible", it would not be removed at any price. "The question is not when but how and whether we can boost measures to guarantee sanitary security," he told French National Assembly in Paris.

Earlier it emerged that the new Anglo-French talks would include two key issues not covered by the original European Commission agreement last August to lift the export ban. They are the way the British authorities test animals for BSE, and the way beef is labelled.

On the first point, the French want to extend the testing of animal carcasses to "pre-clinical" tests on live animals which have not yet shown any of the physical signs of the disease. Britain and the European Commission agree that such tests do not currently give any reliable signs about the presence of BSE. [This is completely inaccurate and contrary to the Swiss experience. -- webmaster]

On labelling, France is seeking clearer rules about how beef for export is labelled -- although it is currently clearly marked for consumers as of UK origin. British officials in Brussels insisted the talks would not be negotiations and that there was no question of concessions to persuade France to reopen its markets.

The Tories reacted with dismay to the prospect of Germany reopening talks over British beef and accused the Government of allowing itself to be outmanoeuvred by its EU partners. "British beef is already one of the safest and most regulated industries in the world," said shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo. "It is obvious that France and Germany - two of our major competitors in meat produce - have political not health motives at heart. They are running rings around Nick Brown and Tony Blair."

Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Colin Breed accused Mr Brown of allowing the French to take advantage of his good nature. "The decision to allow France to reopen the whole case was unwise and is not in anyone's interest, except France's," he said. "Nick Brown is by nature a compromiser, he likes to seek common agreement. Unfortunately his good nature is now being taken advantage of."

Downing Street however mounted a strong defence of Mr Brown, saying that he was acting in the best interest of British farmers and was not playing "some sort of macho game". Mr Brown himself rejected accusations that he had "caved in" to the French by agreeing to further talks when the EU scientists had found so clearly in Britain's favour. "Nobody has given in to the French," he said.

French consumer watchdog backs continuing beef ban

Nov 11, 1999 By Martin Hickman, Political Correspondent, PA News
French consumer watchdogs hit back today at criticism of the decision by the Paris government to maintain its ban on British beef. The European Commission had asked for an official French response to calls for a lifting of the ban by today, amid threat of EU legal action. But premier Lionel Jospin's government made it clear yesterday that there were still concerns in Paris about the safety of British beef, banned after the mad cow disease scare.

The announcement triggered fury in the UK, with Agriculture Minister Nick Brown angrily warning France not to seek new conditions on imports. The Tories rounded on Tony Blair's Government, saying the French were "running rings round" Mr Brown.

But Odile Nicolas-Etienne, of the French Consumers Association, today backed the French decision. She told GMTV: "We are not lifting this beef ban because we did not find the guarantees that we have asked for fulfilled. "There is a real problem of health."

The European Commission is threatening legal action against France over the ban following last month's ruling by EU scientific experts that British beef was as safe as any in Europe. Mr Brown warned that Britain would demand that the commission should go to court unless the French backed down and complied with the unanimous ruling from EU scientists. "It is not for the French government to set extra conditions around the date-based export scheme," he said. "That scheme has been agreed with the European Union. It is the law and if we cannot get agreement by negotiation we will look to the commission to enforce the law."

In a sign of the Government's growing anger, he said: "I would have preferred to get this resolved by discussion and by sensible analysis of the situation but if we can't do it, if we have to fight our way through the courts, then so be it."

The president of the National Farmers Union, Ben Gill, rejected France's demands as more delaying tactics. "I am not prepared to go on having filibustering tactics from the French with any further delays," he said.

Downing Street said the Government would expect the commission to start legal proceedings against France unless the dispute was resolved by Tuesday. Today Alan Donnelly, the leader of the Labour MEPs in the European Parliament, predicted that the French would back down shortly.

"The real deadline is on Tuesday morning of next week, when the European Commission have their meeting in Strasbourg. I think what we will see is a lot of diplomatic activity over the next few days. "Frankly, the idea that the European Commission would be sitting in France, deciding whether France is breaking European laws, I think would be too much for the French government to bear. "I think that we will see an agreement by next week," Mr Donnelly told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He added: "During the course of next year they have the presidency of the European Union, and the very idea that a government could be in such a breach of European law, isolated by the other 14 partners, and they would preside over the European Union, is unthinkable. So I just think that the diplomatic pressure is too great and they will give in..."

Opposition to the return of British beef also remains strong in Germany. Senior Christian Democrat and consumer affairs expert Edithe Limbach said she could see no early end to the ban imposed by Germany's lander, or regional administrations.

"I'm afraid that it's still a long way to go because the health ministers of our lander decided that everything should be done to try to not let British beef into the country, unless it is very clear where it has come from, and unless special tests that are developed could be practised to find out very quickly whether there is any danger or not," she said.

"We are afraid that there still might be a danger that we don't know yet, because there are too many new sick cattle cases in the UK." The weight of scientific evidence was still not enough to assuage everybody's fears, she said.

"We are very concerned that for a long long time it was said that blood transfusion is very safe, then we had these problems with AIDS being transmitted by blood," she told Today.

Swiss BSE cases born after feed ban

Swiss Federal Veterinary Office 10 Nov 99
Five new cases of mad cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE) have been discovered in Switzerland since mid-October 1999, bringing the total number of such cases to 41 this year, according to the Federal Veterinary Office Friday.

The office said 4 of the cows were born after the ban on contaminated animal feed was introduced in 1990. Earlier this year, the government introduced rigorous testing of the cattle. In the past 10 years, a total of 323 cases have been found in Switzerland

Comment (webmaster): It would really be no surprise if BSE cases continued on indefinitely. Feed bans help but seldom are implemented completely or on schedule, due to non-compiance and exhaustion of inventory. BSE may also become endemic through contamination of pasture and paddocks, just as scrapie and CWD have in the United States.

Switzerland has the best testing program of any country at this time. Pre-clinical BSE has a good chance of being detected and diverted from the human food chain.

Lab Test For Prions May Yield Diagnostic Tool For TSE Diseases

October 21, 1999 ARS News Service
An Agricultural Research Service scientist in Ames, Iowa, has developed a laboratory assay that might lead to the development of a diagnostic test for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

The laboratory assay, developed by ARS chemist Mary Jo Schmerr, detects the presence of abnormal proteins called prions in the blood of animals and humans. Prions cause a group of TSE diseases.

The most well-known example of these diseases is bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow disease," which occurred in Great Britain in 1986. There are no documented cases of BSE in the United States. But all sheep are susceptible to another type of TSE known as scrapie. Elk and mule deer get chronic wasting disease, and mink are susceptible to yet another form of transmissible encephalopathy. Human forms of TSE that affect the brain include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and kuru. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is rare in the United States, and kuru has never been seen outside New Guinea.

"Further development of this assay may lead to a diagnostic test for this fatal disease agent in animals and humans. Such a diagnostic test would be an important tool for the control of these diseases," said ARS administrator Floyd Horn.

The presence of BSE in cows has already dealt a severe economic blow to the British beef industry and would have a devastating impact on American agriculture if a case of BSE were identified in the United States.

"Schmerr's accomplishment is an excellent example of how long-term investment in research can benefit American agriculture," Horn said. Schmerr, who works at ARS' National Animal Disease Center in Ames, and Andrew Alpert of PolyLC, Inc. in Columbia, Md., are co-inventors of the assay. [ Address. 9151 Rumsey Rd Ste 180. Columbia, MD 21045. Phone. 410-992-5400. FAX. 410-730-8340.]

ARS and Fort Dodge Animal Health of Fort Dodge, Iowa, have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop a test kit for use in diagnosing TSEs in animals. ARS--the USDA's chief scientific agency--is in the process of applying for a patent.

[Fort Dodge's worldwide headquarters is located in Overland Park, Kansas. Over 4,000 people worldwide work in a vast array of disciplines, including R&D, manufacturing, sales, marketing and finance for both international and domestic sides of the business. It is a subsidiary of American Home Products.

     Fort Dodge Animal Health
     9401 Indian Creek Parkway
     Human Resources
     Overland Park
     KS 66225-5945
Scientific contact: 
Mary Jo Schmerr, ARS National Animal Disease Center,
P.O. Box 70, Ames, Iowa 50010, 
phone (515) 663-7287,

Setback for beef hopes as eu experts fail to agree

Thu, Oct 28, 1999 By Gavin Cordon and Geoff Meade, PA News
Government hopes of a clear-cut ruling that British beef is safe received a major setback tonight after a meeting of European scientific experts broke up without any agreement. The European Commission said the 16-strong Scientific Steering Committee, meeting in Brussels, was "nowhere near a consensus" on French claims that UK beef still carried a risk of BSE contamination.

Although the committee, which advises the Commission, is due to resume deliberations tomorrow, the lack of solid progress will raise fears that it will be unable to deliver a firm conclusion. That would be a devastating blow for British ministers who have pinned their hopes on the committee producing a ruling which would provide a solid platform for legal action to force the French to lift their beef ban.

For weeks, ministers and officials have expressed their absolute confidence that the committee would repeat its verdict of July that British beef was safe and reject the new evidence presented by the French food standards agency. Failure by the committee to reaffirm that view tomorrow could lead to other EU nations considering reimposing their own beef bans, undermining the Government's strategy of positive engagement with Europe and realising the worst nightmares of British cattle farmers.

In the Commons, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was in bullish mood, insisting that the British view would prevail. "I have looked at the (French) evidence and it contains nothing not known to us and the steering committee," he told MPs during an agriculture debate. "We have science on our side, the law on our side and the Commission on our side. The French are isolated."

Downing Street was also insistent that "we have right on our side". However, the Prime Minister's official spokesman acknowledged that legal action against the French may not be the best way of achieving their goal of getting the ban lifted. "Our objective is to get British beef on sale through the entirety of the European Union. The way that we do that, we are willing to look at," he said.

The Tories described the latest turn of events as "extremely worrying" and accused the Government of preparing for a climbdown. "This is not boding at all well for Britain. We had every reason to believe that the committee would reject the so-called evidence from the French. It is extremely worrying that they have now felt the need for more in depth talks," said shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo.

Earlier, Britain's senior European Commissioner, Vice President Neil Kinnock, warned that with any legal action against France likely to drag on for years, the Government may have to seek a diplomatic solution. "The problem is that while the Commission could be confident of the grounds on which it takes the issue to court, the process takes a very, very long time -- it could take years. That is time the EU, the British people and the French people have not got," he said. "The French know that very well, which is why I think that rather than have a long, dragged out legal process -- which is a possibility of course -- they will engage in a diplomatic outcome."

Meanwhile, French agriculture minister Jean Glavany reiterated his warning that France would maintain the ban until the scientists on its food agency committee recommended otherwise. He said Britain would have to introduce new controls in order to prove that its beef was safe.

"We can imagine putting in place sensible solutions very quickly, among them -- without being too precise -- we could see tougher controls, a more systematic labelling system or the slaughtering of herds," he said.

That, however, would be an anathema to ministers who argue that Britain, as a result of the measures introduced in response to the BSE crisis, already has the toughest controls anywhere in the world. The next step will be for the committee to report its findings to the European food safety commissioner, Irishman David Byrne, who is expected to make his response shortly afterwards. That will then have to be considered by the full Commission before it reaches its final position, probably some time next week.

Tonight, Tory agriculture spokesman James Paice, speaking in a Commons debate on the crisis facing British farmers, called on Mr Brown to resign. Mr Paice claimed Mr Brown had lost the support of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the farming industry. "It is time for you to go," declared Mr Paice.

Tomorrow, the National Farmers' Union will criticise Chancellor Gordon Brown for allegedly turning his back on the problems being faced by farmers as a result of the strength of the pound. NFU president Ben Gill, speaking at an agricultural conference in Kirklington, North Yorks, will say that the pound's high level is one of the root causes of the agricultural crisis. Ahead of the conference, Mr Gill said: "Through no fault of their own, British farming is being crushed because exports are being made uncompetitive while the home market is being swamped by cheaper imports.

"It is long overdue for the Chancellor to recognise that his sole use of interest rates to control inflation is far too crude. "He must explore the possibility of alternative financial mechanisms urgently to give a more sophisticated control of the economy. Failure to do so will result in an irreversible loss of farming and the rural economy and will create a huge financial and human cost."

Meanwhile, the Government announced that the European Commission has agreed a 170 million package of assistance for British farmers. Junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley told the Commons the cash was "agrimonetary compensation" -- payable to farmers whose Common Agricultural Policy subsidy payments, calculated in euros, have been hit by the strong pound. "We've just heard that the Commission have approved a package worth 170 million of agrimonetary compensation, which is actually more than we were expecting," Mr Morley said.

Montana elk confirmed with CWD

Dept of Livestock press release 5 Nov 99

State considers emergency order to act on wasting disease

Billings Gazette 6 November 99
The state may take emergency action as early as next week to toughen regulations designed to prevent the spread of a deadly disease in Montana's elk and deer, a government official said Friday.

Arnold Gertonson, state veterinarian, said he is considering an emergency order that would double from one year to two years the time that a game-farm animal in another state must be checked for symptoms of chronic wasting disease before it can be brought to Montana. [This is completely inadequate given multi-year incubation periods. A blood test is available for live elk. -- webmaster

His comment came two days after authorities confirmed Montana's first case of the disease, in an elk that died last month at a game farm near Philipsburg. The state plans to kill all 85 of the remaining elk at the farm by Nov. 17.

During a news conference Friday, Gertonson said a more restrictive requirement on imported game-farm animals would not necessarily have kept the disease out of Montana. He said the animals at the Kesler Game Farm have been there since 1990, long before the current restriction was in place. "I don't know at this time what we could have done to avoid this situation," he said.

But the Montana Wildlife Federation had urged Gertonson and the Department of Livestock to impose a 48-month monitoring requirement before game-farm animals are imported, or to ban any imports until a means of testing live animals for the brain disease is found. The organization has criticized the department for not taking more seriously the disease's threat to wildlife and cattle.

Craig Sharpe, interim executive director for the federation, said Gertonson would not go far enough in merely increasing the period of time required for monitoring game-farm animals bound for Montana. The state should impose a moratorium, at least until a way of detecting the disease in live animals is developed, he said.

"We have to face the seriousness of this disease," Sharpe said. "DOL (Department of Livestock) needs to step forward and say enough is enough."

Gertonson was noncommittal about a total ban on imported game-farm animals, saying any decision about a moratorium will be made based on scientific information available at the time.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a neurological disorder found in elk and deer that causes brain damage, results in severe weight loss and eventually is fatal. It is related to "mad cow disease" in cattle, scrapies in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans.

State epidemiologist Todd Damrow said no instances of transmission of CWD from animal to human has been found. "It's the position of the department (of Public Health and Human Services) that the best available science at this time does not indicate a significant threat to human health as a result of chronic wasting disease," Damrow said.

Tests of game animals killed by hunters last season found no trace of the disease in the wild. Gertonson said he is not overly concerned about the disease spreading to wildlife, based on other states' experiences with CWD.

"The disease has existed in Colorado for a number of years and the incidence in the wild population has remained relatively static over the last few years," he said. "The potential for spread in Montana with the existing regulations is, I think, relatively small."

The Kesler game farm has been under quarantine since June 1998, after a game-farm elk in Oklahoma died of CWD and was traced back to the Kesler operation. A Hardin game farm that got animals from Kesler also has been quarantined.

Gertonson said the Kesler animals have been herded into an interior pen to prevent any possible contact with nearby wildlife until they can be killed. He said the Departments of Livestock and Fish, Wildlife and Parks will destroy the animals and probably burn and bury the carcasses.

He said other options include taking some animals to a research facility for further study or shipping them to slaughter and processing only those testing negative for the disease. The state will recommend that no animals be returned to the game farm for at least a year, Gertonson said.

He said he withheld information about discovery of the disease for a day in order to have time to talk to David O. Kesler, owner of the game farm. Kesler could not be reached for comment.

Diseased animal raises possibility of tighter rules

By SCOTT McMILLION - Bozeman Daily Chronicle
A confirmed case of chronic wasting disease in a game farm near Phillipsburg could mean tougher restrictions for the controversial elk ranching business in Montana, state veterinarian Arnold Gertonson said Friday.

CWD is a dimly understood, fatal disease that affects game farm animals as well as wild elk and deer in Colorado and Wyoming, Gertonson and other state officials said in a telephone press conference. It is related to mad cow disease in cattle, scrapies in sheep and Crueutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans, and it causes eventual weakening and death in its victims. Nobody knows just how it is transmitted, how long an incubation period it requires or even how to test for it in a live animal.

The only current way to diagnose the disease is through analysis of a dead animal's brain tissue, which the disease renders spongy and full of holes. State epidemiologist Todd Damrow said current speculation is that the disease is spread through a type of infectious protein called a prion.

Game farm regulations call for a one-year official "surveillance" period before elk or other game farm animals can be transported into Montana. However, the case confirmed this week shows that may not be enough time. The animal died Oct. 17 on the Kesler Game Farm, which has been under quarantine since June 1988 because an animal that died of CWD in Oklahoma the previous month had been traced to the Kesler ranch.

No animals have been imported to the Kessler farm since the early 1990s, Gertonson said, and that means surveillance times likely will be expanded. "We'll have to take a look at that and probably extend that surveillance time," he said. "We will definitely review our rules."

Stan Frasier, past president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, on Friday renewed his group's call for a ban on imported game farm animals "until they develop a test for live animals."

DOL briefly banned all game farm imports but earlier this year implemented the surveillance requirement of 12 months. Frasier said related diseases -- some scientists believe CWD is the same thing as mad cow disease, he said -- can spread to people and among species, and that means DOL needs to get a lot tougher with the game farm industry.

"This problem was created by the game farm industry" bringing animals into the state, he said. "It's a really scary scenario. I really hope it doesn't spread into the wild population and the beef population. It's got incredibly wide implications." Since he began researching the disease, he said, he has stopped eating commercially prepared meat of all kinds.

Damrow said there is no current evidence of CWD being spread to humans. [No study has ever been undertaken. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. -- webmaster]

The brains of hundreds of wild deer and elk have been tested for the disease, and all have been negative so far, said Ron Aasheim, an administrator at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. A number of game farm animals also have been tested, Gertonson added, but all have been negative except for the one found at the Kesler operation.

Some wild deer and elk have been infected in Colorado and Wyoming but the disease does not appear to be spreading and may even be less common than it was several years ago, he said. [CWD is well-established in Colorado and shows no signs of abating. About 5% of deer in Larimer Country have detectable disease. -- webmaster]

Aasheim said wild deer and elk live in the area around the Phillipsburg game farm as well as around a second quarantined operation near Hardin. His department plans to shoot several wild deer in the Phillipsburg area in December or January and more in the Hardin area for testing. "There are wild deer and elk in the area," he said. "Whether or not they've had contact (with infected animals) we can't say."

For now, all 80 elk on the Kesler Ranch have been moved to an interior pen, further isolating them from wild animals. All of them will be removed by Nov. 17, Gertonson said, though the methods have yet to be worked out.

They may be shot and the carcasses burned, live or dead animals may be shipped to a research facility, or they may be slaughtered, with the meat of uninfected animals going to market, Gertonson said. [These animals could well be infectious even though diagnostic methods used in Montana would not be sensitive enough to detect them. -- webmaster]

DOL will recommend that the Kesler operation not bring any more elk to the property after the depopulation, Gertonson said. Critics of the elk ranching industry have for years voiced fears of disease outbreaks, especially CWD because it is so poorly understood.

It was first discovered in Colorado in 1967 in elk that had been captured in the wild and moved to a captive facility, Gertonson said. [Completely wrong. The disease was first seen in captive mule deer exposed to sheep. Exposed deer were subsequently released to the wild. -- webmaster] He said nobody knows if the disease developed on this continent or traveled here with imported animals. "We don't know where it came from," Gertonson said. He and Aasheim said the depopulation and other expenses will be borne by their agencies, which are funded by livestock producers and sportsmen. [The department of livestock is supported from general state tax revenues; the department of wildlife by out of state hunting licenses. -- webmaster]

That isn't fair, Frasier said. "Legitimate" ranchers and sportsmen shouldn't be forced to pay for cleaning up a complicated problem created by the game ranching industry.

Until it was quarantined, the Kesler game farm made most of its money by selling breeding stock to other growers, Gertonson said.

Elk disease confirmed in Montana

By ERIN P. BILLINGS The Missoulian  
HELENA - State officials on Thursday confirmed for the first time the presence of the deadly chronic wasting disease in Montana after tests proved an elk at a quarantined game farm in Philipsburg died of the affliction. The Department of Livestock announced that animals at the game farm, operated by David Kesler, will be destroyed. The agency didn't specify how or when the animals will be killed.

State Veterinarian Arnold Gertonson didn't return phone calls Thursday evening. A spokeswoman at the department said questions would not be answered until a press conference Friday.

Chronic wasting disease, which always is fatal, is similar to the "mad cow disease" that has been found in cattle in Great Britain. The disease typically afflicts elk and deer and has been validated in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Saskatchewan.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, Montana officials have said there was no evidence of chronic wasting disease in the state, either in captive or wild populations.

The Kesler game farm has been under quarantine since 1998, after it was determined the disease might be present there. Kesler, who couldn't be reached for comment, has voluntarily agreed to destroy the animal population at his facility, said Ron Aasheim at the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The Livestock Department said the elk died at the Kesler game farm Oct. 17 and it required immediate testing of the carcass or a necropsy. Those test results, received Wednesday, confirmed the animal died because of the disease.

Josh Turner, president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, called the confirmation of the disease "tragic" and scolded the Livestock Department for failing to do more to prevent the disease in the first place. She said her organization wants the state to put in place longer term surveillance periods on game farm animals.

"This is not good for any Montanan," said Turner. "The Montana Wildlife Federation has worked for years to get the Department of Livestock to take this disease seriously and they have continually given us the cold shoulder."

Turner said she's worried that even if the Kesler game farm population is destroyed, the disease is so infectious it could still afflict wild animals in the area. That, she said, could hurt sportsmen, cattle ranchers and even other game farm operators.

"This is the greatest threat to Montanans' public wildlife, at least as long as I've lived," she said.

But state Sen. Ken Mesaros, R-Cascade, who is planning to start up a small game farm, said Montanans need not worry. He said while believes the disease has to be monitored closely, he's confident the state will ensure Montana isn't at risk.

"I know that every step is being taken to ensure the safeguard of the wildlife population, both domestic or wild," said Mesaros. "Anyone that is an alternative livestock producer is very cognizant of the fact you have to have a high degree of integrity in your herd health, whether it's raising elk or Angus. Herd health is always a major concern. You always want to ensure ample production in all cases." He said state regulations far exceed national standards for chronic wasting disease, noting its stringent testing program on herd health and movement of game animals.

State policy requires that when an animal such as an elk or deer dies on a game farm it is tested for chronic wasting disease. In November, state regulations were taken a step further when the Racicot administration required that any game animal imported into Montana must come from game farms where they have been monitored for at least a year for signs of the disease. [This is completely inadequate -- the shortest known incubation time is 18 months -- webmaster.]

At the same time, the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks samples animals for the disease at hunter check stations around the state. Some 400 animals were tested last year and 185 samples have been taken so far this year, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks' Aasheim.

Aasheim said following the hunting season, likely in December, the agency will conduct additional tests on 10 to 12 mule deer for the disease in the Philipsburg area.

CWD not a threat in Texas?

10 Nov 99 By DOUG PIKE   Houston Chronicle 
Last week, a Houston television station ran a startling report on a rare illness, Chronic Wasting Disease, that affects deer and elk. As best viewers in the outdoors department could tell, however, the segment neglected to mention that CWD has never been found in this state or that it has never been linked to human infection.

In a statement issued around the same time as the local broadcast, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department noted succinctly that, "There have been no known instances of Chronic Wasting Disease in Texas white-tailed deer." "We have no reason to suspect that Chronic Wasting Disease has occurred in Texas," said Dr. Gary Svetlik, assistant area veterinarian in Texas for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. "We have had no reports of deer with signs of the disease, which can include emaciation, tremors, hyper-salivation and extreme thirst."Other indicators, Svetlik continued, include a reduced fear of humans, weakness and generally inexplicable behavior.

The closest link to date in Texas was a pair of captive elk, both of unknown origin, that showed potential signs of the disease and eventually died. Tissue samples from the animals were shipped to laboratories and analyzed. Both were negative for CWD.

Representatives from all of the agencies mentioned in the TPWD news release dismissed media reports suggesting that eating Texas venison could be linked to Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, which is extremely rare but was blamed in an isolated incident a few years agofor two dozen human deaths in Great Britain. CJD is the human form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. It was bovine spongiform encephalopathy that headlines called "mad cow disease" in Great Britain and eventually was transmitted to people.

Another strain of the disease appears in sheep and goats, as well, and is called Scrapie. In goats and sheep, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy was first documented more than 200 years ago and has never been linked to human infection.

CWD was noted originally in a captive mule deer by Colorado Division of Wildlife biologists in the 1960s. During 16 years of monitoring, no disease in livestock or humans has been linked to CWD. [This is a complete fabrication. There has been zero monitoring in livestock or humans. -- webmaster]

According to the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Colorado, in this country, CWD has been documented in mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk in Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and South Dakota. A survey of wild deer and elk in those states found CWD in about 4 percent of deer and less than 1 percent of elk.

Those televised reports hinted, for the sake of sensationalism, at "mad deer disease" and its possible presence in Texas. The segments appeared, not coincidentally, only days before the general deer season opener across most of the state.

TPWD's Dr. Gary Graham, wildlife division director, countered. "I would encourage hunters to go out this weekend, harvest a deer and enjoy the experience," Graham said.

From his Austin office, Svetlik agreed. "The human health threat is very minimal," Svetlik said. "Even where there is CWD, there is no evidence that it is infectious to humans." [No evidence exists to show CWD non-infectious either. -- webmaster.]

Dr. Terry Beals, executive director for the Texas Animal Health Commission, said steps are being taken to safeguard Texas whitetailsfrom the disease. "To prevent the introduction of CWD into the state, and to protect Texas' free-ranging deer and captive deer and elk herds," Beals said, "the Texas Animal Health Commission worked with a team of wildlife and captive deer experts in instituting state entry regulations for deer and elk." [ie, currently no regulations exist. -- webmaster]

Svetlik was quick Tuesday to note that, as a scientist, he is hesitant to speak in absolute terms about anything. The remote possibility exists, he said, that CWD has found its way into Texas and might be a threat. About the same possibility exists, according to the best scientific evidence available today, of a Texas deer hunter being bitten by a cobra. [Game farms in nearby Oklahoma became infected through importation of elk from Montana. -- webmaster]

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